Our team possesses a wide range of experience, knowledge and skills.

Having come from all walks of life, the members of the ATT team, including full- and part-time volunteers and members, have each made the choice to dedicate themselves to the cause of Animal Freedom.

Laila Kassam PhD

Direction Lead

Laila is a founder and director of Animal Think Tank. As Mission Lead (Culture) she is responsible for building a healthy and resilient organisational culture to enable the delivery of Animal Think Tank’s mission.

Meet Laila

She is co-editor of the book Rethinking Food and Agriculture: New Ways Forward’ and co-founder of the Veterinary Vegan Network and Ethical Globe.

Laila worked in the international development sector from 2003 to 2018 with NGOs, foundations, government ministries and international research institutions. Her work focused on conducting research for rural development projects in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This ranged from planning multi-million dollar projects to assessing their impact on poverty and food security. Her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals and by international organisations including CGIAR and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO). She has lived and worked in the UK, Switzerland, Kenya, Guyana, Malaysia and Ghana.

Laila has a PhD in Development Economics (SOAS), an MSc in Development Management (LSE) and a BSc in Economics and Politics (Bristol). She has a passion for permaculture and natural building. She takes pride in her Muslim heritage and in her spare time she loves to read, meditate and spend time with other animals, including her feline housemate Lucky.

Mark Westcombe

Direction Lead

Mark is a founder and director of Animal Think Tank. As Mission Lead (Task) he is responsible for building and resourcing Animal Think Tank’s organisational capacity and steering the delivery of organisational strategy and mission.

Meet Mark

He was a co-founder of Animal Rebellion and previously organised the UK’s Animal Rights Gathering (2017 & 2018).

Professionally Mark has worked as a management consultant and group facilitator specialising in risk mitigation, strategic decision making and project impact. He has worked for many national and international organisations, including HMRC, British Sugar, the NHS, Ministry of HE Indonesia, Ministry of Trade Sweden, and Ministry Of Defence. He was a lecturer in this area at Lancaster University Management School at BSc, MSc and MBA levels between 2001 and 2018. He is a trainer in Systems Thinking and Group Facilitation for his professional body, The Operational Research Society. He has twice been awarded teaching prizes for his work on incorporating diversity into the university syllabus. He has postgraduate training as a Group Analyst (Psychotherapy).

Mark was a founder and director of the multi-award-winning Lancaster Cohousing; and co-founder and director of the UK Cohousing Network 2006-2015, and chair 2013-2015. As a gay man, he has enjoyed organising several of Lancaster’s QueerFeasts, as well as helping organise Lancaster Pride in 2007. In his spare time he enjoys fell running; foraging; cooking; and generally being outdoors.

Kangan Upadhye

Strategy Lead

Kangan, as Strategy Lead, is responsible for providing strategic direction by leveraging her knowledge of social change and comprehensive understanding of the political landscape.

Meet Kangan

Professionally, Kangan has excelled as a technology consultant, specialising in strategic and innovative IT projects coupled with effective project management. Her professional journey has been marked by a rich diversity of experiences, having lived in India, Australia, and the UK. She has received notable recognition for her innovative contributions to the technology industry, particularly in the microfinance sector in India.

Having completed her Master’s in Public Administration from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Kangan has actively contributed to projects with Daksh, Legal Think Tank, and the Ministry of External Affairs, India.

Kangan attributes her Digambara Jain heritage to shaping her values of non-violence, compassion, and love, leading her to maintain a plant-based diet throughout her life. Outside of work, she finds solace in the outdoors, immersing herself in nature, working in animal shelters, and continuing her passion for professional dance and filmmaking.

Natalie Braine

Narrative Lead

Natalie is our Narrative Lead. Her work is focused on uncovering the values, metaphors, frames and narratives that will most persuade different demographics that Animal Freedom is an urgent social issue. She gathers hope and inspiration from other movements and campaigns that have helped change the narrative, and in turn changed society for the better.

Meet Natalie

After being involved with Extinction Rebellion in 2019 and witnessing first-hand the power of people standing up together to change the national conversation, Natalie went on to lead Animal Rebellion’s social media team later that year. It was here that she learned more about the role of storytelling in strategic campaigning.

Before joining Animal Think Tank full-time, Natalie worked in entertainment media (PR, journalism and book publishing), and is also a published novelist. Outside of work, she enjoys reading, writing, exploring new places and being in nature with her favourite person, Hattie.

Dilan Fernando

People & Culture Lead

Dilan is a core member of Animal Think Tank. As Governance Lead, he is responsible for enabling Animal Think Tank to organise at scale while staying resilient enough to achieve its mission.

Meet Dilan

Dilan has trained as a Self-Organisation Coach with Evolving Organisation, and holds deep knowledge of progressive governance systems like Holacracy and Sociocracy.

Dilan was integral in the early success of Animal Rebellion. Leading the organisation’s Media team in 2019, he helped the idea of a plant-based food system reach deep into mainstream consciousness. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Dilan co-founded Young Voices for Animals, where he created a youth leadership program and Australia’s first Youth Animal Rights Conference. He founded the Monash University Vegan Society and co-organised  Melbourne’s March to Close All Slaughterhouses. He has delivered talks on social movement strategy at the Institute for Critical Animal Studies and Australia’s Animal Rights Forum. In the Australian anti-poverty movement, Dilan was a pioneering member of Monash SEED and a coordinator at Oaktree.

Dilan holds Bachelor degrees in Commerce and Economics from Monash University, and previously worked in Marketing at National Australia Bank. In his spare time Dilan enjoys calisthenics, playing the guitar, watching arthouse films and lamenting the performance of the Sri Lankan cricket team.

Pranav Merchant

Fundraising and Strategy

Pranav focuses on Fundraising and Strategy at Animal Think Tank. His work involves developing and implementing ways for ATT to raise funds as well as supporting ATT’s long-term strategy work through a variety of research initiatives, such as by public-facing focus groups.

Meet Pranav

Pranav’s professional background is in the world of finance and technology. He began his career in investment banking and then transitioned to corporate advisory, business operations and corporate finance for Silicon Valley tech companies. Despite his prior professional focus, he always remained interested and involved in animal rights work, usually as a volunteer. 

Of Indian descent, Pranav was raised in sunny Southern California and now lives in Lancaster, where has morphed into a true Brit and now loves the cold, cloudy, and rainy weather.

Bárbara Buril, PhD


Bárbara is our Social Movement Strategist. She is responsible for developing and championing our theory of change as well as supporting the organisation in its strategic planning. She concerns herself with high-level strategy; thinking about how a social movement can grow, build power and create change.

Meet Bárbara

Bárbara hails from Brazil, where she studied communication and philosophy. True to her conviction that ideas and discourses have the power to change social reality, she took her studies on Critical Theory up to a PhD. After volunteering on a vegan farm, she decided to dedicate her life to advancing the interests of fellow animals. She soon understood that although the lives of animals raised for consumption are rife with suffering, the issue is direly neglected across the political spectrum—and came to see fighting for animals as a way to fight for social justice.
Bárbara has published several articles in specialized journals and mainstream newspapers, speaks four languages, and has lived in many different countries. In her free time, she enjoys meditating, running, cooking vegan dishes from around the world, and spending time with her baby dog Louis.

Robert Udale

Public Research and Testing 

Rob leads our public research and testing. His role is to conduct research to determine the messages, frames, metaphors, and narratives which most persuade people to support Animal Freedom. He hopes that one day this research will help to shape the conversation at a societal level about Animal Freedom.

Meet Rob

Rob gained his PhD in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Bristol. His past research investigated the mental processes which support our ability to remember, think, and make decisions. Rob became interested in Animal Freedom activism in 2022 where he began volunteering with his local animal rights group to reach out to the local community and encourage veganism. He has also volunteered with Animal Rebellion on their “Stop the supply” and “Feed our future” campaigns.

In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, gardening, video games, and playing chess. He lives at home with his wife, his son, a grumpy hedgehog, and three somewhat cocky hens.

David Bowden

Social Movement Governance

David is our Social Movement Governance lead. He is responsible for building the capacity and sustainability of local groups and their alignment with a coordinated national strategy. This includes conceptualising national and local group governance best practice whilst developing resources and training for social movement organisers.

Meet David

David has experience of working and organising within social activist groups, university societies and poetry working groups. He is particularly interested in the role of pre-figurative politics in organising activist spaces, the structure of democratic processes in decentralised organisations and their potential in reaching across cultural, social and political divides.

Originally wanting to join the Royal Marines, David became interested in animal ethics after studying Philosophy at college. This led him to achieve a 1st class undergraduate degree from Lancaster University in Philosophy and a master’s degree with Distinction from Durham University in Philosophy. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, writing poetry, board games, going to the gym and (eventually) learning Spanish.

Natasha Matsaert

Messaging Lead

Natasha is the messaging lead at Animal Think Tank. She holds responsibility for creating persuasive messages, stories, framing and narratives to excite and engage our base. She will also be involved in training local grassroots groups in the basics of narrative, helping build expertise in story-based strategy within the animal freedom alliance.

Meet Natasha

Natasha recently completed a Master’s degree in Anthrozoology at the University of Exeter. Her past research has explored the importance of re-centering embodied, emotional knowledge and connections across social justice issues in the animal freedom movement. Throughout her Master’s, Natasha has worked with multiple charities and activist groups, utilising her skills in visual and written communication to spearhead creative projects that effect change. She sees herself as a vegan-feminist and is particularly interested in the creative power of the arts in activism.

In her spare time, Natasha enjoys drawing and painting, creative writing, meditating, and squirrel-watching. She also hopes to start a cycling for wildlife group to create memorials for animals killed on roads.

Owen Oliver


Owen is our People lead within our Culture team. His main responsibilities are recruitment and onboarding.

Meet Owen

He was a full time member in 2019 of the Talks and Trainings team at Animal Rebellion. In this role he reached out to people across the country organising talks and Nonviolent Direct-Action trainings, as well as delivering them himself. Owen has engaged in many different outreach groups and has enjoyed the positive interactions he has had with people doing this. He is also a speaker on Animal Resistance.

He has a 1st class degree in Philosophy, wrote his dissertation on Animal Rights, and is trained in Nonviolent Communication. Owen claims that since going vegan in 2018 he has yet to meet another Vegan interested in football and he longs for the day when he finds another Vegan as passionate about football as he is.


Wellbeing Extraordinaire

Hattie came to the UK in 2017, after living on the streets in Romania. Despite her traumatic start in life, she continues to see the best in all human animals.

Meet Hattie

At Animal Think Tank, she reminds the team about the need for regular stretches, breaks and the importance of sharing snacks. Hattie loves exploring new places, squirrel-watching and belly rubs. She’s looking forward to more animals joining the team.


Kinship Collaborator

Lottie joined the team in January 2023. She loves food in any form it comes, chewing bag straps and running in the woods. As a survivor of abuse, she is rediscovering her kinship with human animals. She helps remind the team that when someone is allowed to be themselves, they can truly thrive. She also reminds them that the comfy yellow chairs belong to her and Hattie.

And thanks to changemakers:


Logo design: Lorenzo Jacopo Sciuca

Website rebrand: MAD Ideas

Photography: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals plus others as credited


Thanks to our diverse and courageous supporters, whose collective action is helping to create the future for fellow animals.